Superdome Refugees Being Moved to Astrodome

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The first step might be the most difficult in getting thousands of Hurricane Katrina refugees from the New Orleans Superdome to the Astrodome in Houston.

As plans are being made to collect nearly 500 buses for the 350-mile trip, and the Astrodome is being readied, officials are trying to figure out just how they will get the evacuees from the Superdome, which is surrounded by water, to the buses that will likely park on highway ramps near the arena.

The planning comes during a race against time. The floodwaters are threatening the generator providing electricity to the building. Right now, it is less than a foot above the floodwaters. There has been no air conditioning since power went out when the hurricane arrived Monday.

Texas Governor Rick Perry says he expects evacuees to start arriving within the next 24 hours at the Houston Astrodome.

He says Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco asked him Wednesday morning if the Astrodome could house the 23,000 people currently being sheltered at the Superdome in Louisiana, and he quickly agreed.

He says even before the request, Texas officials had been talking about using the Astrodome as a long-term shelter for people already stranded in Texas because of the storm.

Perry says the hurricane survivors are welcome in Texas for "as long as they want to stay." Children who are sheltered at the Astrodome will be able to attend public schools in Houston. Perry says the Astrodome schedule has been cleared through December.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is arranging for hundreds of buses to carry the evacuees from New Orleans to Houston.